LOS ANGELES — James Cameron has set his return trip to Pandora.
Fox announced Wednesday morning that “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3,” the sequels to last year’s science-fiction blockbuster, will be James Cameron’s next films, with the director beginning work on the scripts in early 2011. Production on “Avatar 2” could begin as soon as late ‘11, with the movie likely in theaters in December 2014, according to Fox.
Although it was widely believed that Cameron had many ideas for “Avatar 2” and wanted to begin work on it shortly, the fact that it would be his priority — and that the studio was planning on a third film as well — represents a major development. With his heavily developed story lines and intensive use of new technology, Cameron can often take a decade or longer between films.
Fox said in its announcement that Cameron has not made a decision about whether to shoot the two films back to back but that he well could, which would allow “Avatar 3” to come out as early as December 2015.
There was little detail about the plot for the new movies. “Avatar” ended with Jake (Sam Worthington) joining the Na’avi and fighting off the invasion of human armed forces led by Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lang).
Cameron did say in a statement that the movies “will be self-contained stories that also fulfill a greater story arc” and that “we will not back off the throttle of ‘Avatar’s’ visual and emotional horsepower and will continue to explore its themes and characters.”
It’s also not known how many of the original cast members will return, though it is all but assured both movies will be in 3-D. Cameron’s writing partners also remain a question; Laeta Kalogridis (“Shutter Island”) contributed heavily to the script for the first film.
The original “Avatar,” which came out in December and played through the winter, was a global phenomenon that grossed about $2.8 billion worldwide. Cameron’s work will also be coming back to the big screen with a 3-D rerelease of “Titanic,” which is expected to hit theaters in April 2012.